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Turkey detains mayor from pro-Kurdish opposition party over PKK affiliation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Feyme Filiz Buluttekin, the detained mayor of Sur district in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir (file photo)

Turkey has arrested a mayor from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on charges of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and "disseminating terror propaganda."

Security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Feyme Filiz Buluttekin, the mayor of Sur district in the country’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, was suspended on December 20 as part of an investigation, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The report added that Buluttekin was removed from her post over alleged ties to the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely-Kurdish southeast since 1984 and is deemed a terrorist organization by the Ankara government, spreading propaganda for the militant group and insulting the Turkish state and nation.

She is also accused of participation in the funeral of high-profile PKK member Mehmet Yakisir and other Kurdish militants besides sympathizing with their families.

Back on August 19, the Turkish Interior Ministry removed three mayors from office on charges of links to the PKK.

The ministry announced in a statement at the time that Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan -- respectively the mayors of the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir and Mardin as well as the eastern Van province -- had been suspended.

It added that the mayors – all members of the HDP– had active cases against them in which they were accused of crimes such as establishing or spreading propaganda for the militant group, or just being a member. 

The charges included attending funerals and visiting graves of "terrorists," renaming streets and parks after imprisoned PKK members, and offering jobs to the Kurdish militants' relatives.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed the HDP has ties to the PKK.

Thousands of members of the pro-Kurdish party have been prosecuted over the same accusation, including its leaders.

The HDP denies any affiliation to the outlawed PKK, but has tried to broker peace talks between the militants and the Ankara government.

PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.


A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.

The Turkish government is also angered by descriptions of its cross-border ground offensive in northern Syria, which the HDP labels as an “invasion attempt.”

The HDP has urged Ankara to halt the military operation.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push militants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown PKK militant group.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants had to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

The announcement was made hours before a US-brokered five-day truce between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces was due to expire.

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